Honors Launches History Project

In September 2011, a major initiative in the Honors College began to take shape. Like many fresh ideas, the Honors History Project began in the mind of a student doing independent research with the encouragement of a teacher. 

Keri Myrick was recruited to the College in 2011 as a high-achieving mid-career student, and in her first semester she took Human Sit Modernity and travelled with the study abroad group to Ireland. Excited by the challenge and quality of her Honors experiences, the 33-year-old non-traditional student decided to minor in Creative Work—she is an art major still deciding on a painting or photography concentration—and signed up for a newly developed Honors course that would allow her to work directly with Dr. Joe Pratt, the editor of Houston History Magazine

“The Path to Tier One” is Professor Pratt’s working title for a special issue of the magazine devoted to the transformation of the University of Houston into a nationally-recognized research university with high-quality teaching, undergraduate research opportunities, and student success at every level. Given Myrick’s enthusiasm, Pratt suggested that she draft an article on the development of the Honors College. 

“When Dr. Pratt made the suggestion,” Myrick said, “I immediately jumped on it. I was excited and kind of surprised that the story hadn’t been written yet.” When Myrick came to Dean Bill Monroe with the idea, he suggested that she begin her research by interviewing founding dean Ted Estess and assistant dean Jodie Köszegi. He also offered access to the College’s archival material and decided to seek donor support for the project. “As soon as I talked to Keri, the wheels began to turn,” Monroe said. “I began to imagine a long-term project that would go well beyond a single article.” 

Monroe turned to Honors College supporters Matthew (’00, Chemical Engineering) and Tamara (’99, Chemical Engineering) Steele, who quickly made a lead gift to launch the multi-year project. “Bill got me a proposal on Friday afternoon, and Tami and I thought about it over the weekend,” Steele said. “We liked the idea of an Honors College history and decided we would help.” The Steeles’ gift will allow the College to begin to hire interns—the first will be Myrick herself—to support coursework in the areas of oral and public history, and sponsor undergraduate research opportunities such as the PURS and SURF grants for students interested in working on the project. 

Monroe is as encouraged by the possibilities inherent in the process as in the various products that might come out of the project. An additional resource will be writer Robert Cremins, who has been teaching in the Human Situation sequence, led the study abroad to Ireland, and recently joined the College’s academic advising team. “Robert wrote the recently published history of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, and he knows the process,” Monroe said. “We see the project as an opportunity to bring alumni together with others in their era and with current students. We want to hear and record their stories and make copies of their photographs. Our long-range plan is for conference presentations by students, print publications, electronic media—maybe a dedicated website—feature articles, and eventually a book.”

Monroe envisions a series of reunions, probably based on the first year of matriculation, which would be sponsored by the new Honors College Alumni Association

The HCAA is being organized by alumnus Aly Capetillo (’08, Economics), senior analyst at Main Street Capital, and Beth Kungel Borck, director of development for the College. “Aly, Beth, Keri, and I will be in touch soon, so be expecting a call or email,” Monroe said. “We hope that the HHP will be a project with encounters, developments, and discoveries that will tell us where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and who we are.”

The College seeks story ideas and photographs as well as additional gifts to support the HHP. Inquiries can be directed to HHistory@central.uh.edu